Legends, stories, anecdotes are woven through the quilt of veteran and civilian experiences of war. We gain new words from war slang and the same stories are told from war to war with tiny adjustments to make them fresh and current.
These stories are even more interesting when they turn out to be true, like the four listed below.
Monopoly Gives POWs a Get out of Jail Free Card
During WWII, Germany allowed aid agencies, such as the Red Cross, to deliver care packages to prisoners of war in Germany. Those packages were allowed to contain items of recreation.
British intelligence officer, Christopher Clayton Hutton, had a brilliant idea. Concealing items in a board game that would help the POWs get home should they be able to escape.
Waddingtons, a British partner of Parker Bros, was at the time manufacturing Monopoly board games. They were also well known in Britain for their ability with detailed printing on silk. A secret area was set up for quieted employees to make special board games for the POWs. They made shallow indentions under the top graphic paper on which you play and underneath they hid files, a compass, and a map.
Paper maps were unreliable because they were easily damaged and the rustling and crinkling of the paper could be heard, so they made the Monopoly maps out of carefully folded silk. The maps showed routes from the POW camp to safety. These sets even included real currency hidden in the stack of Monopoly money!
Aid workers knew which camps to send the boards to by seemingly innocuous periods after a certain place name on the board. British pilots, before leaving for war, were told that the special sets could be identified by a red dot on the Free Parking space.
Representatives of Waddingtons point out that the sets were smuggled in by fictitious aid agencies because if a set were discovered by Germans for what it really was, they did not want the Red Cross involved. That might have led to the real agency being unable to deliver needed items to the POWs.
The John Waddington Company made other maps and escape aids for the British government during the war. Other games were used to conceal aids to POWs like decks of cards and Snakes and Ladders. Pencils even held very tightly packed maps. Some silk maps were inserted into jackets or the heels of RAF pilot’s boots. It is unknown exactly how many POWs used the maps and escape aids to reach safety, but the estimate is 10,000 out of 35000 former POWs that made it back to safety before the end of the war.
Nazi Herman Goering says that All a Leader Has To Do is . . .
While facing trial in Nuremberg for war crimes, crimes against peace, and crimes against humanity, Herman Goering was interviewed by Gustave Gilbert, a prison psychologist and intelligence officer that spoke German.
Gilbert kept a journal that was later published. Called the Nuremburg Diary, it consists of notes and quotes written down immediately after conversations with prisoners and also of essays written by the prisoners themselves.
The conversation with Goering revolved around Goering’s need to try to absolve himself of what he had reportedly done. He pleaded with Gilbert that he was not anti-Semitic and that had he known in time he would have tried to stop the events of the holocaust. He said that he did not glorify Hitler and that any remarks he made about killing Jews were temperamental and that there was too much focus on those statements.
When the conversation turned to how the people felt about these atrocities, Gilbert put forth that he didn’t think common people were “thankful for leaders who bring them war and destruction.”
Goering responded “Why, of course, the people don’t want war,” Goering shrugged. “Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally, the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship . . . voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.”
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